Thursday, March 12, 2015

BandAid Solution

I am a bit late to this party. That is, the party that was the ill-conceived, redesign of DC Comics' identity done in 2012.

Well, at least they got the "unveil" part right. Literally. But the promise that this new identity would, "…create(s) a visual connection among the company, its three brands DC Comics, Vertigo, and MAD…" never came to pass. Both MAD and Vertigo brands remain the same, 3 years later.


DC Comics humble beginnings, as a brand (from 1940-1974), remained "mild-mannered" to say the least, but for a pictorial iteration in 1970 featuring Superman.

Then in 1976, Jenette Kahn, newly appointed publisher at DC, hired Milton Glaser to do a redesign. (seen here)

Later referred to as the “DC Bullet,” it ended up being nothing more than a subtle “refresh.” It utilized the same circle and the same font (ITC Machine) and some minor embellishments. It gained no dynamics from the CCW rotation either. Bolder certainly, but the logo was veering off into a territory it should have decidedly avoided, and it was gonna get worse.

Next, in 2005, Josh Beatman created a legitimate redesign, known as "DC Spin." I really liked this one. It has some solid dynamics and a solid, still caps, DC symmetry. BUT, any comics geek will tell you, at this point an invisible line was crossed, as the brand now was dancing dangerously close– with it's suggestion of a convex (angled) surface, and now singular star– to Captain America's shield! 

Oh oh! Captain America is a Marvel character!

So maybe, behind the scenes, this issue was discovered and I am not the first "forensics" designer to notice it. 

But this BandAid Solution was built on shaky ground. To rationalize the sell, the design was claimed to be referencing "the D peeling back to unveil the hidden C - symbolizing the duality of the iconic characters that are present within the DC portfolio." I daresay that not every character in the DC catalog has dual identities. And most certainly this is untrue for the broader catalog that includes Vertigo. So I am not buying that weak rationale. And who the hell is going to "intuit" this notion from the logo anyway?

And the idea that this “peel-back” design offered transitional and reveal devices across all media, is a classic “tail wagging the dog” scenario. I mean, look, if you wanted to utilize that device you could, but that does not mean it makes it a viable identity. This reminds me of a time in the mid-nineties where every graphic designer out of college was having a love affair with PhotoShop, as a result, the market was flooded with “effects” like a stain on the brand landscape. There was no underlying structure or forward thinking production consideration. It just looked “cool.” Then two months later the designer might be asked for a one-color iteration of the design, and the whole thing had to be reverse engineered, usually to it’s demise.

Here is what this logo might look like as one color:

If creatives believed that this was a “unique” transitional device, perhaps they needed to jump in the time machine and go back to a late 1980s video suite, that utilized this page curl effect via Quantel Paintbox, which is where it first appeared in the production arena. Ergo, it was a dated device.

Time to pull this bandaid off, and build something from the ground up that is relevant and referential.